UPSC IAS Interview 2017-18

"The foremost challenge in governance today is to maintain the highest standards of probity, integrity, accountability, transparency and fair play"

By Prof. D P Agrawal, Hon’ble Chairman, UPSC

Hon’ble Vice President of India, Shri Hamid M Ansari; Hon’ble Members of the Commission; Distinguished Guests, Ladies and Gentlemen, It is with great pleasure that I extend a very warm welcome to Hon’ble Vice President of India, Shri Hamid M Ansari. The Union Public
Service Commission is deeply honoured that he has consented to deliver the second lecture on ‘Governance and Public Service’. The inaugural lecture in the series was delivered by Her Excellency, the President of India in 2009. We are extremely grateful to you, Sir.

The country has witnessed an all round development in almost all the sectors since last two decades. The need for maintaining the pace of development and the requirement to ensure that benefits of development percolate to all citizens pose a great challenge to governance system.

We need to evaluate and re-jig the systems of governance responsible for ensuring an effective public service delivery and to keep it efficient and people friendly. In the journey of 85 long years in its various incarnations, the Union Public Service Commission as a constitutional body while zealously guarding its independence has discharged its mandated functions - not only the recruitment and selection for the civil service under the Union, but also advising the Government on matters closely relating to manpower requirement in public services. At the same time, the Commission has also been fully alive to the emerging challenges of governance.

Good governance for effective public service delivery presupposes that the systems are manned by the right people with right skills and capabilities. While undertaking the recruitment and selections in a meritbased manner, the UPSC has always been open to innovations in the area
of selection procedures and processes. The changes introduced in the Preliminary stage of the Civil Services Examination from this year are a pointer to the Commission’s commitment to select the most suitable person for the Civil Services. The changes in the scheme and pattern of
the Preliminary Examination are based on the principle of equity in as much as it will provide equal opportunity to the candidates from diverse educational and social backgrounds. We are also in discussion with the Govt. of India about an alternative method of selection for induction into All India Services from the State Services.

Commission handles more than 15 lakhs applications every year. To tackle this challenge Commission has introduced the system of online application for the candidates, which has been receiving an overwhelming response. Encouraged by the positive response, the Commission has
recently introduced hundred percent online application for two Examinations, namely Engineering Services Examination and Indian Forest Service Examination. To facilitate the candidates from the remote area, Commission permits them to apply off-line also.

Recently, UPSC also conducted successfully one online recruitment test at different centres in the country. Based on the experience from this experiment, the Commission may, in future, introduce online examinations and tests for other selections as well. The primary concern of the Commission is to recommend the selected candidates to the Government as soon as practically possible. Detailed analysis of delayed cases has been done in the Commission which revealed a number of lacunae in the proposals submitted by the Ministries. A number of workshops have been organized by the Commission for the Ministries/Departments to facilitate them to overcome these lacunas. In the same context, a Single Window System has been introduced, whereby a preliminary scrutiny of the cases is done at the time of receipt itself. I am happy to mention that this initiative has shown positive results in disposal of the cases.

Commission recently organised a day long interaction session with the Heads of Training Academies and Institutes of All India and Central Services. The idea was to benefit from their feedback and perceptions. During the deliberations, it was learnt that no mechanism exists to map the performance and behavioural aspects of officers in the field in the early stages of their career. It was considered necessary by the group that the Government put in place such a mechanism. The Commission would be interested in knowing whether the selected candidates exhibit the attitudes, values required and display the skills and competence required for the job.

In today’s globalized world, one cannot remain totally confined to one’s own approaches, methods and ideas for delivering the given mandate. We have to be a learning organization, ready to accept the best practices available globally. Towards this objective, the UPSC hosted
the first Conference of the Chiefs of Public Service Commissions of SAARC countries in the month of November, 2010. The initiative was appreciated by all the Member States and it was decided to continue such dialogue every year. The Commission has also entered into bilateral partnerships with Public Service Commission’s of Canada and Bhutan. A similar MOU is likely to be signed with the Independent Administrative Reform and Civil Service Commission of Afghanistan. We are confident that such partnerships will be of professional benefit to all of us.

The Constitution of India, under proviso to Article 320 (3), provides for exemption of posts from the purview of the Commission. Such an exclusion of posts from the purview of Commission would be justified only in exceptional circumstances. To allow permanent exemption of posts/services would run counter to the spirit of the provisions of the Commission. However, over the years, the Government of India have excluded a number of civil posts /services from the purview of the Commission invoking this proviso to Article 320(3). Considering the purpose and spirit of the Constitutional provisions, I would urge the Government of India to bring all such civil posts/services back within the purview of the Commission.

Article 321 of the Constitution mandates that Parliament may by law provide for exercise of additional functions by the UPSC in respect of services of the Union and also as respects the services of any local authority or other body corporate constituted by law or of any public
institution. By virtue of its independent Constitutional status, the Commission inspires the highest confidence in the public with regard to its fairness, impartiality and objectiveness of its selection procedures. It is therefore for the government of India to consider amending the existing Acts of Parliament creating Corporations, Tribunals or other Organizations, to incorporate a provision for consultation with the Commission in making recruitment, selections, etc. for these bodies.

As of now, our country has a large number of recruiting agencies which make selection to various services/posts under the Government. In most of the Developed countries, an independent authority audits all selections made by different authorities. It may be worthwhile to adopt such a system in our country also. In our context such auditing could be done by the Commission.

The emerging dynamics of governance call for a fresh look at the issue of permanent appointment in the civil services vis-a-vis the outcome-based performance. The life- long job security provided to government servants perhaps brings in an element of complacency and
inertia. There should be intense assessment of performance of the officers at various stages of their career to weed out dead woods at an earlystage in order to have a civil service that is nimble, efficient, impartial, accountable and above all honest.

Another issue that needs attention is opening up of senior positions in Civil Service to all persons possessing skill sets matching with the job profile. Such selections should be made on a competitive basis with no prejudice to anyone. Coming back to the subject of today’s lecture by the Hon’ble Vice President, I can’t resist from mentioning that the foremost challenge in
governance today is to maintain the highest standards of probity, integrity, accountability, transparency and fair play. I am sure that if we are able to successfully meet this challenge, the people’s aspirations and expectations are bound to be fulfilled.

Before I end, I take this opportunity to welcome you all and also once again welcome the Hon’ble Vice President of India.

“Governance and Public Service” : Six Challenges

By - Hon’ble Vice-President of India, 
Shri M. Hamid Ansari

I wish to convey the country’s, and my own, appreciation for the contribution of the Union Public Service Commission to nation building by shaping the constitution and functioning of the higher civil service in the country.

It is a truism that an overwhelming majority of human beings live in politically organised societies that require for their normal functioning a set of persons entrusted with the implementation of laws and rules made by the polity for its welfare. The concept of civil services, as of judiciary and of defence forces, is inextricably linked to this requirement.

It is for this reason that every state in history has utilized the instrumentality of civil services, tailored to its requirements. These needs have changed with times, with the nature of the state, and with its end purposes. Some essential traits have nevertheless persisted down the ages. We can, therefore, read with benefit to this day Kautilya’s short chapter on ‘Service with a King’ and its emphasis on the need to give advice at all times in accordance with dharma and artha.

The relevance of the civil servant to the ruler (individual or a collective) was perhaps best described by the medieval historian Ibn Khaldun: ‘you are’, he wrote, ‘the ears through which they hear, the eyes through which they see, the tongues through which they speak, and the hands through which they touch’.

This need to seek the best available talent, and condition it appropriately for the requirement of society and the state, was practiced at all times in our own history. Modern India thus inherited an established tradition. Its imperative necessity was appreciated by the Founding Fathers of our Republic. The end product was incorporated in Part XIV of the Constitution.

In the past six decades, the Union Public Service Commission has ably discharged its constitutional function in the recruitment of the higher civil services. The civil services, in turn, have responded in varying measure to their core mandate of dispensing social, economic and political justice. The framework of the political and bureaucratic Executive has made a significant effort at ameliorating the quality of life of citizens and in doing public good.
In the same time span, however, the socio-economic and political context has evolved in good measure and substantive notions of justice and equality have filled the interstices of the constitutional principles and fundamental rights. This has brought about a virtual revolution in expectations.

It is therefore essential to comprehend the impulses at work. Together, they pose a set of six challenges:

First, government interventions are now viewed by citizens through the prism and framework of rights. The days of the so-called mai-baap sarkar are over. Today, and particularly in matters relating to education, health, roads or good governance, the operative expression is right and entitlement. Increasing levels of literacy and economic success has contributed to this conceptual shift in some measure.

Second, advances in technology, means of communication and interaction, and changes in civil society perceptions have multiplied manifolds the instrumentalities available to a common citizen to engage with the government, assert entitlements and rights, and challenge decisions of the government that impact adversely.

Third, given the unsatisfactory record of dispensation of justice through the court process, the burden of dispensing it has shifted in considerable measure to the government, civil society and the public in general. Enhanced legal literacy, establishment of regulatory frameworks in various sectors, and reliance on administrative facilitation have enabled citizens to assert their rights without the need for interventions of courts. The role of civil servants and public service
delivery has become critical in this effort.

Fourth, as an economy and as a society, we are in the process of transition from the use of controls and regulations to bring about desired public policies to harnessing of incentives and markets for the same. The market looms large in all spheres of personal and public life. It affects our choices of profession, ways of life, modes of living and entertainment, education, health care, and even, ideologies and belief systems.

Fifth, the broad framework of our social and political contract that sustains the legitimacy of the government and its interventions for public and social good is increasingly facing erosion. This has come about principally on account of the actual and perceived inequities of the growth process, marginalization and impoverishment of segments of citizenry and also perhaps, a balkanization of the mind. It has wider, perhaps disturbing, implications for our democracy and the rule of law.

Sixth, we have a young generation that is exposed to global standards of living and service, is impatient with the pace of change, and demands equal opportunity in sharing the fruits of development. This is more pronounced in urban areas, but equally true for rural India. Their despondency finds reflection in hostility towards elites in polity, business and industry and society; at times, it takes violent forms of protest targeted against the state, its structures and agencies. These manifestations retard growth, erode democracy and legitimize anarchy.

Emanating from the above, a set of questions come up for consideration:
 How should we deal with the huge asymmetries of power, and the sociocultural propensity of tolerating its misuse through dilution of systemic and institutional safeguards?
 How can public policy bring the citizen to the centre stage of service delivery and governance, and not put him/her at the mercy of the State and its agencies, or of the market and its mechanisms? and
 What role can the civil service play in this regard?
I venture to think a good starting point is recognition that the civil services in our country represent the societal elite and that elite behaviour represents a significant challenge to the supremacy of Rule of Law.

We do not need to go far to substantiate this. The national and international media is full of reports of how the elite are able to subvert the Rule of Law with money or influence. Sections of society and polity even accept this as a way of life. As a result, Rule of Law norms are being sidelined or subverted through systemic discrimination and exclusion based on community, gender, class and other limiting and distorting considerations. Its impact on the quality of governance is all too evident.

The higher civil services in the country, therefore, must be role models of elite behaviour upholding the Rule of Law. This is not a homily; it is part of our constitutional scheme of things and a professional and moral obligation of a civil servant to the nation and to the citizens.

This necessitates an element of out-of-the-box thinking on quality and content issues pertaining to our higher civil services.

The UPSC, I understand, is already implementing some reforms in the recruitment pattern, especially in the syllabus and examinations. The issue of life-long cadres for All India Services, reluctance or inability to serve adequate period of careers outside the cadres whether at the Centre or other States, equitable access to posts covered under the Central Staffing Scheme, and possibility of lateral access into and out of the civil service are issues that could benefit from such out-of-the-box thinking.

A review of the performance of the civil service since independence would show that in terms of Sardar Patel’s parameters, while the polity has delivered by giving constitutional safeguards to civil servants and implementing sound recruitment procedures, the political leadership has at times faltered on discipline and control and the civil servants themselves have often enough succumbed to the temptation of tailoring professionally sound advice to subjective considerations.

The need for introspection and correction is compelling; inaction is no longer an option, nor is reticence in the face of evident wrong. The need is also for a moral imperative that is comprehensive, not selective, and which emanates from and encapsulates constitutional morality.

We do need reiteration that Civil servants are functionaries of the state and not of the government alone, that they are paid to render honest professional advice however unpalatable, and that they should be guided in their work by the principles and objectives, and the charter of rights and duties, enshrined in our Constitution.

Ladies and Gentlemen, Systemic improvement in governance and service delivery to citizens is an ongoing process and effort of the Union Public Service Commission in this regard deserves
our appreciation. It is time to remember, and remind, that the objective in the final
analysis is indeed - “Public Service”.

Address of Hon’ble Vice-President of India, Shri M. Hamid Ansari at the second Annual Lecture of the Annual Lecture Series on “Governance and Public Service” organised by the Union Public Service Commission at 1700 Hrs on 3rd May 2011 in New Delhi.
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